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State: Poway ‘Failed To Protect’ Water System From Contamination

Water from a faucet at the public restroom at Lake Poway, Dec. 2, 2019.

Photo by Matt Hoffman

Above: Water from a faucet at the public restroom at Lake Poway, Dec. 2, 2019.

The California Water Resources Control Board cited the city of Poway this week with three violations after stormwater contaminated already treated water, leaving the entire town without water for a week in December.

Specifically, state investigators found that Poway failed to protect its water system from backflow contamination and therefore did not provide clean water to residents. The system is faulty, the state determined, because already treated water reservoirs are directly connected to storm drains.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

Earlier this month, city officials acknowledged that a rope got stuck in the storm drain system, which allowed stormwater to flow into the treated water. Officials do not know how the rope got there.

RELATED: Poway Officials Now Say Rope Caused Water Contamination

In December, while residents were being told not to drink the water and more than 200 businesses were forced to close, Poway Mayor Steve Vaus sent a different message.

"We continually have great test results," Vaus said in an interview with KPBS. "I’m drinking the water, we need to get this lifted."

A state water official said statements contradicting or minimizing the boil water notice risked confusing people about the health impacts of the contamination.


Poway Citation

Poway Citation

The California Water Resources Control Board's citation to Poway.

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Poway will be billed for state time spent issuing the citation. The citation also requires that Poway take additional steps to correct the problem for the long term.

The city can appeal the decision. A spokesperson said they are reviewing their options.

"We are in receipt of the citation and are analyzing the information, as well as evaluating options," the city spokesperson said. "We will be discussing the citation with the city council in the near future."

The city could have been fined every day its system was offline during the boil water notice. The state declined to impose a fine.


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Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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